Jack Kerwick

Of the Roosevelt and Truman administrations, she spoke contemptuously as she identified what Hurston took as their hypocrisy. Those “people who claim that it is a noble thing to die for freedom and democracy,” she asserted, “wax frothy if anyone points out the inconsistency of their morals [.]” The fact is that “we” also “consider machine gun bullets good laxatives for heathens who get constipated with toxic ideas about a country of their own.” Roosevelt “can call names across an ocean” for his “four freedoms,” she added, yet he lacked “the courage to speak even softly at home.”

When Truman dropped “the bomb” on Japan, Hurston referred to him as “the Butcher of Asia.”

But Hurston blasted away at Big Government for domestic purposes as well. She was an adamant critic of the New Deal and jumped at the chance to support presidential candidate Robert A. Taft when the opportunity arose for Republicans to dismantle the house that Roosevelt built.

A big part of FDR’s legacy, Hurston complained, is that “the word ‘liberal’ is now an unstable and devious thing in connotation [.]” What this means in practice is “Pinkos and other degrees of fellow travelers” have succeeded in convincing large numbers of people that a liberal “is a person who desires greater Government control and Federal handouts.”

Taft, though, could put an end to this, Hurston claimed, for Taft is a real liberal, a Jeffersonian liberal.

Interestingly, Hurston found Taft’s lack of charisma to be among his virtues, for she realized that those presidents who seduced the electorate with their charms were dangerous to liberty. Taft, she thought, was more like “those men who held high office” before “the mob took over” with “the advent of Jacksonian democracy [.]”

An opponent of segregation, Hurston was just as much of an opponent of federal efforts—like Brown v. Board of Education—to end it. She was bewildered by the idea that, as a black person, she should take comfort in the fact that there was now “a court order for somebody to associate with me who does not wish me near them [.]”

Race relations in the South, through the “effort and time” of those who live there, “will work out all its problems.”

In short, Hurston was a devotee of liberty. She relished in her individuality while courageously discarding the collectivist, utopian fantasies of which the twentieth century was ridden:

“I have the nerve to walk my own way, however hard, in my search for reality, rather than climb upon the rattling wagon of wishful illusions.”

During this Black History Month, all lovers of liberty would be well served to follow Hurston’s lead.


Jack Kerwick

Jack Kerwick received his doctoral degree in philosophy from Temple University. His area of specialization is ethics and political philosophy. He is a professor of philosophy at several colleges and universities in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Jack blogs at Beliefnet.com: At the Intersection of Faith & Culture. Contact him at jackk610@verizon.net or friend him on facebook. You can also follow him on twitter.